Music from a five-piece band, a wandering gospel singer, and conversation from Harlemites and international tourists alike clamor in the background, as colorful and lively as the Harlem-historic art plastered on the walls. Sunday brunch at Red Rooster makes any diner feel like they are really experiencing a part of Harlem. The vibrant and warm atmosphere makes all of the diners feel right at home, even on the chilliest winter Sundays.
I recently had brunch at Red Rooster with some out-of-town guests I was showing around Harlem. Once we were seated, we examined both the brunch menu and the extensive cocktail menu. We were celebrating a milestone birthday (60), so we all ordered cocktails! The prices may have been stiff, but the drinks were stiffer. I’m always intrigued by cocktails with St. Germain, so I ordered the brownstoner. I took one sip and immediately felt a warm shiver travel down my throat, all the way to the tips of my fingers and toes. My body momentarily felt as though it had been hit by a truck. The sheer amount of liquor in the brownstoner should disqualify it as a Sunday, before-5pm kind of drink, but I’m no quitter. I was determined to finish it! For brunch, however, I’d recommend one of the gentler cocktails like the Yes, Chef, a blend of housemade ginger beer, berbere, pineapple, and vodka.
The food showcases Marcus Samelsson’s culinary eclecticism–boldly updating southern classics with spices from around the world. The Fried Delta Catfish sandwich was spiked with curry, which displayed the Chef-Owner’s Ethiopian heritage. I ordered the El Jefe: fried eggs, cheese grits, housemade chorizo, and lime crema. Despite the traditionally-southern cheese grits, this dish was more “Latin American” than even the name suggests. To my surprise, it also came with black beans, and the lime crema effectively accented the other Latin American flavors of the dish.
Seemingly on cue, as we wrapped up our meal and were preparing to depart, the wandering, lone gospel singer wandered our way and handed me the mic. Feeling the effects of the brownstoner, I was down to have a little fun! But when I realized that the mic she put up to me was indeed on, I passed the mic to the birthday girl. We quite literally left on a high note as the birthday girl and the gospel singer sang the soprano part of Wade in the Water to their hearts’ content.